The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 18, 2013

Playoff time is when football season becomes fun


The Mankato Free Press

---- — The high-school football season goes by so fast.

Eight games in eight weeks, each drawing an enormous amount of attention and hype. You can plan your fall Fridays around the local 11, and you generally get a pretty good bang for your entertainment buck.

But now is when things get really fun. It’s playoff time, when teams you don’t expect to win get hot and make a nice run and other teams that you think have a good chance to advance to the state tournament get upset along the way, producing good drama over the next five weeks.

It’s no surprise to see Mankato West seeded No. 2 in Section 2AAAAA; Chaska is undefeated and formidable. As the two seed, the Scarlets could have a tough opening game against No. 3 Chanhassen, which should win its quarterfinal game against Waconia.

Through playoff football, West and Chanhassen have built a rivalry. There have been some great games between these teams, including last season’s 28-21 overtime victory for West.

Waseca has been a terrific story this season, winning the last South Central Conference championship and going undefeated. Yet, that wasn’t enough to claim the top seed in Section 2AAAA, which belongs to defending state champion Hutchinson. The Bluejays have played an interesting schedule, which included nonconference road games with Little Falls, St. Croix Lutheran and Fridley. That should make Waseca battle-tested for a possible road game at Hutchinson.

It will be interesting to see how Belle Plaine bounces back from Wednesday’s loss at Tri-City United. The Tigers were ranked No. 1 in Class AAA and still held onto the top seed in Section 3, receiving a bye. That was an emotional game against TCU, and Belle Plaine has only five days to regain the form of the first seven games.

Speaking of TCU, that’s a physical football team with hard-running backs and a quarterback who can throw the ball. They’re in a tough section with undefeated Rochester Lourdes, but the Titans seem capable of beating anyone in Class AAA.

It’s been tough to watch Waterville-Elysian-Morristown struggle, and the Bucs don’t even have a home game in the Section 2AA quarterfinals. There’s some things you kind of take for granted, and a down season can make you appreciate how good that program has been over the last 12 years, with six state-tournament appearances.

Blue Earth Area won a state championship last season but is seeded fourth in Section 3AAA. St. Clair went to the state tournament last season and is seeded fourth in Section 3A. Would it be a huge surprise if either team drew from last season’s success and made a postseason run?

It would be nice to see Mankato Loyola get its first win, but the task is monumental against undefeated Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s. However, research shows that every great upset occurs when one team is heavily favored. So you’re saying there’s a chance.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.